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Report Animal Cruelty

What you can do to help stop animal abuse

  • Animal neglect is the most common type of cruelty call that animal welfare agencies respond to. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Every state has laws prohibiting animal cruelty, and all of them contain felony provisions. However, a law is only as good as its enforcement, and that's why animals rely on you to protect them by reporting animal abuse.

Spot the signs

Animal neglect

Neglect makes up the vast majority of cruelty cases to that animal control officers respond to. Animal neglect takes many forms, including:

  • Hoarding: Hoarding behavior often victimizes animals. Sufferers of a hoarding disorder may impose severe neglect on animals by housing far more than they are able to adequately take care of.
  • Lack of veterinary care: Untreated wounds are a red flag that demand immediate attention; emaciation, scabs and hair loss can also be a sign of untreated diseases.
  • Inadequate shelter, especially in extreme heat or cold temperatures, can be deadly.
  • Chained dogs who are tethered continuously suffer tremendously, both from social isolation and exposure to predators and the elements.
  • Abandonment: A startling number of animals die every year when people move out of their residences and simply leave the animals behind. Sometimes, an abandoned dog's barking or cat's howling can alert the neighbors, but it's wise to keep an eye on a recently vacated home, especially if the former residents moved suddenly.

Direct Violence

It can be very upsetting to see someone beating or physically attacking an animal, but it's important not to turn away. It's crucial to involve law enforcement quickly, as violence toward animals is often part of a larger pattern of violence that can include people as well.

Take action

Make the call

If you make a report of alleged animal cruelty, the responding agency is required to investigate. Dialing 911 is the quickest route to get a response, but it is also useful to have the proper animal welfare agency's number on hand.

If you're traveling or live in a community without an animal welfare agency, call the local police department (or 911) to report suspected animal abuse.

If your area lacks the proper animal welfare agency, and your local authorities are not equipped to deal with animal cruelty cases, you can also email or call The HSUS and ask to speak with one of our experts about the suspected abuse.

Take charge

You can also go one step further and learn how to start up a local animal welfare agency if you live in an underserved community.


As with any crime, documentation of the details is essential to making the case and stopping the animal abuser. The responding agency will need to know details like the date, time and location of the alleged crime, as well as physical descriptions of all individuals (people and animals) involved. Cell phone footage has proven effective in cementing criminal cases against animal abusers.

Working with law enforcement

Some animal welfare agencies have the power to obtain and serve warrants; other agencies work closely with local police who execute the search warrant on their behalf. In either case, an officer will look into the complaint to see if animal cruelty laws have been violated. In cases of animal neglect, the officer may speak with the owner and issue a citation and give the owner a chance to correct the violation.

If the neglect or abuse is extreme, a humane agency may take custody of the animals to protect them. The agency will present the case to the prosecutor's office for further evaluation and possible prosecution.

Prepare to testify

While most jurisdictions will accept an anonymous report of animal cruelty, the likelihood of a successful prosecution greatly increases with a witness who is willing to testify.

Most cases never make it to trial, but if your case does and you’re able to testify, an appearance in court will bolster the case and help ensure justice for the abused.

How we help

What role does The HSUS play in local animal abuse and neglect cases?

The HSUS's End Animal Cruelty and Fighting Campaign focuses on:

With each case The HSUS initiates, we assist not only in the rescue, handling and rehoming of animals, but also in the subsequent prosecution of each case.

Training for law enforcement

The HSUS also provides specialized training, assistance and resources to animal welfare agencies, law enforcement and prosecutors around the country on issues involving animal cruelty and animal fighting. We provide educational materials, online courses, operations guidelines and other expertise.

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